Earlier this week, June Hersh wrote about her Jewish culinary journey and unraveled the mystery of Jewish food. She will be blogging all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning‘s Author Blog.
I am not Martha Stewart, and I don’t have a staff of twenty to help me prepare a dish or stage a photo. But I didn’t need her perks on a sunny August day when I was preparing to photograph my food for The Kosher Carnivore, my second book. My first book,
, featured historic and archival photos of the survivors whose stories I told. Glossy color shots and well-set vignettes were not appropriate for a book focused on the Holocaust. But for The Kosher Carnivore, we wanted to show the yummy food in all its glory, and that meant me and my digital camera would need to be replaced by a professional photographer.
I was not stranded on my kitchen island without some assistance. My two supportive daughters were there to lend a hand. Jennifer would be my enthusiastic sous chef and cleaner-upper — a skill she inherited from her very meticulous and helpful father. Allison, would be my set designer, as she has a creative flair and an eye for photography. But the real hero would be noted food photographer Ben Fink. He has shot images for celebrity chefs and Food Network icons, and now he was coming to my house to film my food.
The night before I diligently enforced the three words that every chef evokes: mise en place. In French, that translates to mean “everything in place,” and for cooks it is what stands between disaster and delicious. Prepping ingredients, stocking my pantry, and setting a timeline were part of my late night homework. Ziploc bags became filled with chopped onions, diced carrots and julienned leeks. The fridge was loaded with uncorked wine, lemons waiting to be zested and meat and poultry marinating the night away.
I didn’t need a rooster to wake me as I barely closed my eyes, reviewing my notes and plotting my course. I had the daunting task of preparing 19 separate dishes to shoot the 11 photos we had hoped to capture. I needed to be part circus juggler, part Julia Child and part Zen master as without calm the day would be a catastrophe.